Dream home at the heart of O’Donnell’s empire revealed
Published 15/12/2011 | 05:00
THEY are the 'golden couple' of the boom era that could face losing their house following the collapse of their €1bn property empire.
Today the Irish Independent can reveal the palatial Killiney residence enjoyed by solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Pat, the home that is threatened now that Bank of Ireland has secured a €71.5m judgment against them.
The property, 'Gorse Hill', on South Dublin's exclusive Vico Road, features a swimming pool, tennis courts, its own gym and sauna, and several ensuite bedrooms.
Sometimes known as 'Bel Eire', the leafy millionaire's neighbourhood includes famous residents such as Bono and Enya.
The 1.25 acre site overlooking Killiney Bay was bought for more than £1m in May 1997 by a Dublin solicitor's firm on behalf of then unnamed clients.
A bidding war between four competing parties for the land that included a small 1950s-era house drove the price up by almost £250,000.
The following March, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council received a planning application in Mr O'Donnell's name for the site.
He submitted plans to demolish the old house for a "two and three-storey dwelling house together with a domestic garage and swimming pool".
This initial application, which included two three-storey towers rising above the rest of the building, was refused by the local authority with planners noting: "The proposed development is excessive in terms of its size and height."
In July 1998, Mr O'Donnell submitted a new application, eliminating the three-storey aspect of the design.
The now two-storey house was approved by the council subject to 11 conditions.
At almost 9,000sq ft, the floor area is several times the size of an average house.
The architect's drawings of the house show the lavish features planned by Mr O'Donnell. Plans for the ground floor describe almost a dozen rooms including a library, billiards room, drawing room, a large kitchen and an adjoining dining room.
It also boasts a gymnasium, sauna, shower room and two guest washrooms.
The plans describe a massive 600sq ft master bedroom upstairs, with a master bathroom and dressing room attached.
There are a further five ensuite bedrooms on the first floor.
Outside, a 10-metre swimming pool was planned along with a small building described as a "pool room" on the drawings.
A further planning application made by Mr O'Donnell in December 2007 shows that the gardens are at least as well appointed as the house.
Aside from the pool, features include what is described as "existing stables", a tennis court and a garage.
The more recent application was made to retain three one-storey "decorative garden gazebos" that had been installed in the garden without planning permission.
Mr O'Donnell was granted permission for retention of the structures in February 2008.
The O'Donnells' home is under threat as Bank of Ireland pursues debts of €71.5m although the couple dispute this figure.
Yesterday the Irish Independent reported how Mr O'Donnell claims the "very draconian legal route" the bank has followed was totally unnecessary.
He said: "Bank of Ireland's actions have been very ill-considered and have severely damaged our ability to recover", adding: "We know we owe the money. We are honest people who want to do the right thing.
"In all the time we have been involved with Bank of Ireland that has been our sole aim."
Mr O'Donnell, a former managing partner at law firm William Fry, later set up his own firm.
He and his wife built up a vast property portfolio which included the Sanctuary Building in London, which houses British government offices, and other properties in Canary Wharf.
They also owned a ski chalet in Courchevel, France.
Their property portfolio was estimated to be worth as much as €1bn.